Arrests May Have Prevented Attack on Anniversary of US Embassy Bombing

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - The arrest here last week of three suspected terrorists may have prevented another attack that was planned to coincide with Thursday's anniversary of the 1998 attack on American embassies in East Africa, police sources believe.

Kenyan police last week arrested two men in the predominantly Muslim coastal city of Mombasa. While being escorted to a police vehicle, one of the suspects detonated a grenade, killing a police officer and injuring himself. He later died of his wounds.

Separately, another man was arrested while crossing into Kenya from neighboring Uganda.

Police identified the man as a 38-year-old Somali named as Aldahir Ahmed Hashi, who is one of 17 most-wanted terrorist suspects on a list recently released by police headquarters.

Sources said the man had flown in to Uganda from Sweden, having evidently avoided flying directly into Nairobi despite possessing air tickets for him to do so.

Police named the suspect killed in the Mombasa incident as Feisal Ali, a Kenyan of Yemeni origin whose parents said had disappeared from home after graduating from high school a year ago.

They had not received word from their son again until they heard about his death on a television news broadcast, they told police.

Police said Ali and the other man arrested in Mombasa may have been planning to use the grenade in an attack on a local police station, in a bid to help another terror suspect being held there to escape.

The U.S. Embassy said the two men detained in Mombasa were suspected of links to the al Qaeda terrorist network and were to have been questioned about the suicide bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in the coastal city last November.

A government minister, Karisa Maitha, announced the setting up of a "vetting committee" to identify foreigners of Arab extraction living illegally in Mombasa's Old Town, which police have identified as a hide-out for suspected terrorists.

Muslim traders from the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia established Mombasa, and the city of one million remains home to many people of Arab descent.

Meanwhile, Security Minister Chris Murungaru called the arrests "a breakthrough" in the country's fight against terrorism, while the U.S. Embassy praised police for their "swift and fearless" action.

An embassy spokesman said the U.S. would continue to support specialized training and other programs aimed at helping Kenya increase its ability to counter terrorism.

Kenyan media commentator Ambrose Murunga said countries like the U.S., Britain and Israel - which were themselves the "vicarious targets" of terrorist attacks - should provide the needed resources, particularly training, to the country's security forces.

Serious attacks in Kenya in recent years have struck U.S. embassies and Israeli-linked targets. In each case, most of the victims have been Kenyans.

On Aug. 7, 1998, the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and the capital of neighboring Tanzania, Dar-es-Salaam, were bombed in an almost-simultaneous attack carried out by al Qaeda. More than 250 people, including 12 Americans, were killed, and some 5,000 were hurt.

After the attacks, a new and heavily secured embassy was built in the Kenyan capital.

Kenya, which relies heavily on foreign tourism, has been stung by U.S. criticism of its security. Both the U.S. and Britain earlier this year warned citizens against non-essential travel to Kenya because of terrorism fears.

Britain subsequently revoked its warning, but the U.S. advisory remains in place.

President Bush recently announced a $100 million initiative to help fight terrorism in the Eastern Africa region. The bulk will go toward improving the capacity of Kenyan security agents to confront acts of terrorism.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

Sponsored Links